Army Spc. Elisebet Freeburg
Mortuary NCO Ensures Dignified Transfer of Fallen
(July 24, 2009)
|KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan, July 20,
2009 – Many people have trouble viewing the deceased or
coping with the emotions of witnessing the transfer of a
fallen comrade. For Army Staff Sgt. John A. Rosado, it is an
honor to ensure fallen heroes are returned home in a timely
and dignified manner.|
It is a
regular part of Rosado's job to attend ramp ceremonies here,
where U.S. and coalition forces stand in formation behind an
open aircraft while the casket of a fallen hero is carried
up the walkway. Paying their last respects to the one who
gave all, troops salute the hero. The pallbearers, his
former comrades, shoulder their heavy burden with somber
faces as they slowly march past the long rows of
servicemembers to the waiting plane.
|Troops bow their heads during a chaplain's prayer during transfer of a fallen comrade at a ramp ceremony on Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Ashleigh Bryant
“The purpose of a ramp ceremony is to give
a final farewell to our comrades, especially for the unit
who's suffering the loss,” said Rosado, a reservist from
Clermont, Fla. “It's to pay respect to the person who paid
the ultimate sacrifice.” |
A soldier since 1993 and a civilian corrections officer for
the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Rosado has worked in mortuary
affairs since 2000 and is the Joint Sustainment Command
Afghanistan mortuary affairs noncommissioned officer in
“Our job is to make sure to expedite our fallen comrades
back to loved ones in a timely manner,” he said.
The mortuary affairs collection point here, one of two for
U.S. troops in Afghanistan, serves regional commands South
and West, and is managed by the NATO Maintenance and Supply
Association. The collection point at Bagram Airfield serves
regional commands North and East.
Rosado became a mortuary affairs specialist after a six-week
course at Fort Lee, Va., that included working at a morgue,
taking fingerprints of remains and assisting technicians in
autopsies. Rosado helps to prepare fallen heroes for
transfer to Dover Air Force Base, Del., where each receives
a dignified transfer to the Dover Port Mortuary for final
preparations of the remains.
When Rosado receives notification of a fallen comrade, he
first alerts personnel to stand by while he collects
information about the arrival of the remains.
“In a respectful manner, with the unit escorts, we'll unload
the remains from the plane,” he said.
The mortuary affairs personnel and the unit escorts proceed
to the mortuary collection point, where remains are screened
for unexploded ordnance, ammunition and sensitive weapons.
“Once they're screened, they enter a holding area,” Rosado
said. “A chaplain will do a small, informal prayer over the
remains with the unit representatives.”
After the fallen troop's comrades leave, mortuary personnel
remove personal effects from the remains. Dover personnel
later will cleanse the remains and conduct an autopsy. Once
the belongings have been inventoried and paperwork is
completed, the remains will be stored in ice inside transfer
cases in refrigerated vans.
Rosado then contacts the movement control team at the
airfield to receive a transportation control number, scans
the documents and sends them to the mobility section to book
Rosado's final duty is the ramp ceremony, organized through
the 649th Regional Support Group. Rosado and mortuary
personnel prepare by tying a U.S. flag over the transfer
case. “It's so when the pallbearers load the case on the
plane, the flag is already folded properly,” he explained.
They then transport the flag-draped case to the flightline,
where U.S. and coalition servicemembers line up in
formation. The mortuary affairs specialists then bring the
van forward to send the servicemember home.
“Not many people can [handle seeing] a deceased person, or
the cause of death, in this state,” Rosado said. “It's a
privilege and an honor. It helps give the family closure.”
By Army Spc. Elisebet Freeburg|
Joint Sustainment Command Afghanistan
Special to American Forces Press Service
Reprinted ontent">from American
Forces Press Service / DoD
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